This Greek word for patience, makrothumia, means to suffering long (or the KJV’s longsuffering). It is a word that is connected to trials caused primarily by people. It is the enduring of evil. A slowness to avenge. Fortitude. Calmness.
God himself is described as having makrothumia.
Romans 2:4. Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience [makrothumia], not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Because of God’s patience we are lead to repentance. Because God is slow to avenge, and willing to suffer long as he puts up with us, we have the opportunity for reconciliation. As you ponder God’s makrothumia toward us, please see the strength of this word choice by Paul. “Patience” is probably too soft a word. This is about putting up with someone who is offensive to you, even hurtful to you. Think about God constantly enduring your hurtful sinning and disrespect of him. Now think about that hurtful, or annoying person in your life. Have you retaliated? Have you avoided? Have you given up? Or has love allowed you to engage, even if it means suffering long?
Because I know that God loves me, accepts me, and has secured me in Christ, I can now, from faith in this final hope, endure you or the hurtful situations that you cause. I can endure patiently.
The opposite of makrothumia is bitterness or resentment. A desire to get even. A short fuse.
Fake makrothumia is cynicism or an “it’s no big deal” attitude. Remember when Joseph’s brothers wronged him? He exhibited great makrothumia, never retaliating or seeking vengeance. And yet he did not brush aside their evil either. He confronted it and exposed it for what it was. And ultimately he forgave it.
Passivity can also be a counterfeit version of patience. You may look patient on the outside, enduring relational sins, but in reality it is cowardice producing passivity that keeps you in the relationship. Not fighting for reconciliation, but living as a door mat.
In scripture, makrothumia is often connected to love. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is singular. This means that they all work as one “fruit” of love in our lives. There is no patience without love.
1 Corinthians 13:4. Love is patient [makrothumia].
Colossians 3:12-14. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
“To live is Christ” gives us the love we need to live lives of makrothumia. Because we are loved, forgiven, and have received makrothumia from God, we are empowered to live patiently with all mankind, enduring wrongs and seeking reconciliation. Endurance in relationships is one of the greatest signs of the life of Christ in us, because it shows that we have decided to depend fully on God rather than on that other person for our comfort, security, and affirmation.
Have you seen yourself give up on people, or seek revenge (even passively) when you are wronged? Do you truly believe that God has been patient with you? How does Christ’s indwelling life and love change how you can see the hurtful and annoying people in your life? Have you asked God to reveal when you have been hurtful and annoying?